Studio Manager Mediation: My Last Trip to Calumet

We work like crazy. As a studio manager/producer/assistant/blogger life very rarely slows down to the point where I can step back and reflect on it. When it does though, I find myself mulling over aspects of this job that might seem so inconsequential, but for me hold deeper meanings. I’ve decided to start this monthly series on the blog to take a minute and stop, reflect, and write about some of the aspects of being a studio manager that really impact me. These are my studio manager meditations.

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My Last Trip to Calumet

Earlier this month, I started off my morning in a fairly normal fashion: coffee, a quick breakfast, hopping in my car and stopping by Calumet on the way to the studio. We needed a few A clamps – nothing more, nothing less. In every respect, it was a perfectly normal trip. I browsed around for a few minutes looking for odds and ends, bullshitted appropriately with the employees, paid for our new A clamps and got on with the rest of my day.

A week later, Calumet filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy overnight and closed every single one of it’s US stores. Chris and I were in San Fransisco on a shoot when I woke up to the news – plastered all over Facebook and social networks that the longstanding photo supplier shut it’s doors without telling a single soul. Maybe it was the haze of jet lag or a slight hangover from the beer I’d consumed the night before, but I didn’t quite believe it. This couldn’t be – I was just there, I just bought A clamps, it was business as usual.

I made a few calls – first to the Philadelphia store; nothing. With no answer on that line, I made a call to one of the only people who I knew could give me a definitive answer. I dialed the cell number of one of our guys at the Philadelphia store. What I’d heard was confirmed – the news was not good, our conversation was short and I immediately realized the worst part of the situation. It wasn’t the equipment, it wasn’t the studio supplies, the rental gear, or any of the actual things Calumet sold. The worst part of this situation was the abrupt and unfair blow the company dealt to its employees.

This blog post goes out to those guys – I wont name names here, but you all know who you are.

Thank you. Thank you for that morning earlier this month when I came in, browsed around, bullshitted, and bought A clamps. Thank you for the years of great service and even better friendship. Thank you for putting up with all of the Crisman team’s craziness and requests. Thank you for everything, it won’t be forgotten.

6 replies to “Studio Manager Mediation: My Last Trip to Calumet”

  1. Great post Robert. We keep getting asked here if we’re happy to see Calumet go and that is really not the case. It was a huge loss for the photo community in Philly and every other city they had stores in. And our hearts go out to all of their employees who were left out in the cold without any warning. Give me a call at Webbcam and we will do our best to fill your needs for seamless, rentals, etc. Thanks!

  2. Well Said Robert, It's not only the loss of the Store and all the items we need as Photographers that hurt, it's te loss of the friendships we have made over the years and the knowlage that is lost when we need help findint that little item that gets lost says:
  3. Holy shit!!! I just bought some more cf cards from them two weeks ago or so,……not a word was said. Apparently they had no idea,…… Well, this sucks….I really liked that store and those guys. Wayne was/is a friend of mine,……

  4. Nice post, kind of puts it all in perspective a bit. With a big retailer like that open one day and closed the next, its hard to define what we as photographers do and mean to other people up the food chain as well as down/sideways on it.
    I’d been renting and using Calumet since the early 90’s, back in the days when you could still speak to Kathy H. one on one. Over the years I used them on and off, travelling from city to city. I did feel a steady decline in service in the past 15 years or so; with many staff behind the counter not up to the standards laid down by their predecessors. Joan Fine in accounts was great and always a big help when it came to large purchases/productions and only Samys SB and the old Studio South in Miami were ever even close to that level. Sad to see them go.

  5. Thank you for the post. I was just in Calumet buying the last of the film in the cases this weekend and was just about moved to tears. I have been going to Calument in Los Angeles since I was an assistant and you had to go down an alley to get into the then pro only store. This is a huge loss to our community as a whole. All the guys in sales, film, and rentals that I’ve known for years will be greatly missed.

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